Bitten: Prologue

This book starts out so well. I think honestly that’s part of why I felt betrayed later, when it all unravels; it started out exactly like the kind of book I want to see more of, the kind of book exploring what it means to be human by exploring what it’s like to have a beast under your skin, to be more in touch with your animal instincts than we normally are. The kind of book I wanted to write when I sat down to write Wolfbound, though Eileen and Zach had some other ideas about where the story should go.

(Yes, a sequel is coming. Slowly.)

The first words of the prologue are “I have to”. A line, by itself. It’s probably a bit pretentious, but you can read into that a theme of being driven by urges too strong to control; knowing this is a werewolf book, you can start to get ideas about barely holding control and being forced into a corner where you have to do things you’d rather not think about in the daylight hours. The October Daye books by Seanen McGuire are a good example of a series that does tread down that road, though perhaps not the best; I just finished catching up on that series so it’s fresh in my mind.

“My battle is as futile as a woman feeling the first pangs of labor and deciding it’s an inconvenient time to give birth. Nature wins out. It always does.”

I love the emphasis that the wolf in her is natural, part of nature; it’s obviously supernatural, but it’s normal for her, something she’s comfortable and familiar with. However, there’s a man named Phillip sleeping in her bed; she’s trying not to wake him so she doesn’t have to lie to him about where she’s been. She loses her battle of wills, however, and slips out the door into the Toronto night

My skin stretches. The sensation deepens and I try to block the pain. Pain. What a trivial word– “agony” is better. One doesn’t call the sensation of being flayed alive “painful”

Here we begin to see a bit of melodrama, but there’s a lot of books that dip into that in this genre, and a little angst can be forgiven if it serves the needs of the story. The same with the inevitable “I glanced in the mirror and described myself” scene that follows; it’s cliche as hell, but it’s at least somewhat reasonable. The same with the classic cliche of “I’ll be mistaken for a dog” — she’s a 130 lb blond wolf. Labs over 100 lbs are considered obese, and she’s in good shape, meaning she’s built on a far larger scale. There’s just no way she’d be mistaken for a lab/husky mix as she suggests. Maybe a Newfoundland, but they have a distinct fur pattern.

She doesn’t think like a wolf, but then, werewolves rarely do. She thinks like an apex predator with a dry sense of humor, the thought patterns barely distinguishable from her human thought patterns except when referring to heightened senses. Again, forgivable, but not great. I am reminded of the Jane Yellowrock books by stark contrast; Beast is a character in her own right, not just an altered form of Jane’s mind. But it’s par for the course.

She rejects the idea of eating a homeless man, considers entering a building to “have fun” with the residents, and ultimately stalks a cop, scaring the piss out of him without revealing herself. Again, not wolf behavior, but apex predator with a keen mind and a sense of humor; she’s not afraid of anything the city has to offer, so the world by night is her playground. Fun had, she goes for a run, preferring the wilder areas outside town.

As my paws thump against the hard earth, tiny darts of pain shoot up my legs, but they make me feel alive, like jolting awake after an overlong sleep. The muscles contract and extend in perfect harmony. With each stretch comes an ache and a burst of physical joy. My body is thanking me for the exercise, rewarding me with jolts of near narcotic adrenaline.

Now, I’m not a physically healthy person, so maybe I don’t know, but is running supposed to hurt like that? It would for me, but the pain would increase in intensity until I’m forced to stop rather than, as she describes, “falling free” a few moments later as she picks up speed. I just somehow doubt every step is supposed to be painful. But I do like the intensely physical description here.

She gives a howl which somehow attracts a coyote.

The coyote is equally confused. Animals don’t know what to make of me. They smell human, but see wolf and, just when they decide their nose is tricking them, they look into my eyes and see human.

(Why would they smell human? Oh well. Magic.)

Coyotes encounter humans and wolves both, and their reaction is typically the same (unless they’ve become partially domesticated by human presence): run away, take advantage of being faster and smaller to shake any pursuit. What is it about shapeshifter novels that makes them disregard actual animal behavior? This coyote actually challenges, then attacks our unnamed protagonist, and its mate joins in from behind.

Our protagonist, being literally 10 times the coyote’s size, easily wins, and heads back to town to shift back into a human.

It shouldn’t end like this, dirty and furtive, amidst the garbage and filth of the city. It should end in a clearing in the forest, clothes abandoned in some thicket, stretched out naked, feeling the coolness of the earth beneath me and the night breeze tickling my bare skin. I should be falling asleep in the grass […] and I shouldn’t be alone. In my mind, I can see the others, lying around me in the grass.

A nice passage, emphasizing her loneliness and her difficult adjusting to city life as a creature of the wilds. However, it’s followed by a lengthier bit where she feels sorry for herself, which I hope doesn’t become a theme, because that could grow old fast.

Her name, we discover, is Elena. She’s caught returning by Phillip, who worries for her safety when she goes out at 4am alone and wishes she’d take him with her — perfectly reasonable, but I gather he has no idea she’s a werewolf, which you’d think you’d want to discuss before having someone sleep over or move in, but I guess to each their own. She muses on how the relationship is doomed, Phillip is perfect and she screwed it up, the usual litany of self-loathing. The chapter ends almost how it began: with a single, profound sentence

Sometimes I get so hungry.

Hungry for company, hungry for her old life back, or maybe just hungry for breakfast. This chapter caught my attention and held it long enough that I thought I might, just might, enjoy the book.

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5 Responses to Bitten: Prologue

  1. Firedrake says:

    For once I have a copy available and can read along.

    Two things bug me in this first chapter. The first is the stalking of the cop: she is aware that if he breaks into a run she will instinctually chase and kill him, but she still allows herself to get into that situation without a qualm. That doesn’t encourage me to think well of her.

    The second problem is Phillip. She’s sharing a bed with him, so why can’t she trust him enough to admit her nature? (It wouldn’t be hard to prove.) With a human helping, it would be much easier to get to and from a safe place to change, for example. If she doesn’t trust him enough to share that, that’s fair enough, but then why is she so surprised that the relationship’s going toxic? Why doesn’t she even consider mentioning the truth to him?

    I haven’t read ahead at all, so I have no idea how or whether these questions will be answered, but they’re certainly the ones that are occurring to me after the prologue.

    • yamikuronue says:

      From what I’ve seen so far, all that seems to be glossed over, which is a real shame. I’m a big fan of not keeping secrets that are that huge by the time you’re moving in together 😐

      That’s a good point about the cop. She complains a lot about her situation in life but doesn’t do much to make it better. I wonder if she’s meant to be so self-destructive?

      • Firedrake says:

        Possibly because I do a lot of role-playing, I have a habit of thinking of characters as people. I’m guessing that Phillip’s job in the narrative is to show us that Elena isn’t completely inept at relationships, it’s just that she hasn’t found the right guy (my whiskers for romance tropes are twitching), but – in part because of this problem that I don’t automatically sympathise with the Designated Protagonist just because the narration is in her voice – I find myself asking awkward questions like what sort of relationship they have, whether either of them is thinking of it as “nice for now” or “maybe on the way towards something permanent”, and so on.

        But I have to be fair, these things – and the pain through the feet, which I was writing off to the hard ground rather than exercise – are relatively minor problems at this point in the book. Lots of my objections could be done away with by learning more about where Elena came from, and I’m sure that will be gone into in a bit more detail.

        • yamikuronue says:

          If I remember rightly, next week dives into more of their relationship, but once the main plot picks up the whole thing gets tossed aside and by the time I’ve read ahead, it’s not picked up yet. But I got the impression that Phillip and Elena have very different ideas as to where this is going, mostly because Elena’s doing the whole “I don’t know what I want in life and I know this won’t last but it’s nice for right now” thing and Phillip’s doing the whole “Meet my family and become best buds with them” thing. Frankly I think their relationship issues are a better plot than the actual plot >.>

  2. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, May 19th, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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